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There’s nothing we love more than a good throwback, and celebrity fashion at the turn of the millennium makes for an interesting read. The lingering aftermath of the ‘90s had been tucked into bed for a deep slumber, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Rani Mukerji and their ilk were welcoming the new century with maximalist flair—the winning candidates included heavily embellished saris and head-to-toe studded gowns. Flip through the pages, and you’ll find the more-is-more bluster thrown into sharp relief against the decidedly normcore aesthetic of their male counterparts. Slouchy suits were de rigueur, but casual leather jackets passed muster as well. Every so often, you’d spot a creative tie peeking its head out amidst the monochrome monotony, before being hushed back into silence in the conveyor belt lineup of all-black suits. Case in point: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan taking the stage in an ornate lehenga—laden with sequins, crystals and embellishments—while Shah Rukh Khan stood next to her in a dapper, if comparatively fuss-free, ensemble at the Filmfare Awards in 2001.

Aishwarya Rai stage

Fast forward to two decades later, and the fashion landscape has been treated to a thorough volteface. Ranveer Singh’s red carpet eccentricities are no longer waging a lone war in the interest of inventive fashion; there has been a collective sartorial awakening that has gripped the mensfolk of tinseltown. Off-duty appearances come with meticulously curated looks, and the stretch from the car to the airport has doubled into an informal runway—ideal for humble-bragging about the latest sneaker acquisitions. 

READ: Diljit Dosanjh’s fashion evolution in 20 pictures

“There’s no denying the fact that celebrity fashion has taken a complete 360-degree turn,” says Anisha Jain, personal stylist to Shahid Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter and more. “Today, everybody understands the importance of shaping public perception, and every actor has a stylist who ensures that they are well turned-out, even when off the clock. This culture of professional styling and wardrobe curation started in India as recently as 8 years ago. If I have a job today as a stylist, it is due to the pioneering work done by Sonam and Rhea Kapoor,” she elaborates. 

Isha Bhansali, personal stylist to Ayushmann Khurrana, echoes the sentiment; “Men are getting far more involved in fashion and style than they used to. In this fast-paced digital world, everything catches on in an instant and everyone’s following the herd. It’s this innate need to be different that compels men to consider style and fashion in their daily choices,” she says. The payoff of this fashion renaissance comes in the form of disruptive sartorial choices; “We’ve done everything from an electric green suit to high-waisted, 1920s-style trousers in pink as well as a velvet blazer doused in a vivid hue of scarlet,” Bhansali enthuses. 

The trickle-down effect has made a believer of normcore enthusiasts as well. Jain explains, “Shahid’s personal style is minimalist, but he now prefers to have one thing that pops in the look. Having worked together for the past couple of years, I’ve found that he is open to everything, but he wants something that makes the look memorable. There is no ‘this is what I want’; he offers me the leeway to experiment. And when he does try something new, he carries it off well. For the Filmfare Awards this year, we chose a latex jacket, which is a real departure from what we usually do. It was a shimmery black raincoat, and he carried it off like a total star.”

This sartorial renaissance means that actors aren’t just content with a passive backseat either—Bhansali would like you to know that they are very much involved in styling decisions. “For the Filmfare Glamour and Style Awards 2019, we wanted to do something edgy and unusual. I sourced two metallic jackets—one blazer and one parka from Amit Aggarwal—and we’d planned to take a call on which option to go ahead with. But while getting ready, we just couldn’t choose because we loved both options. We decided on the spur of the moment to simply wear both! And so, I layered the silver foil blazer with a silver mesh parka over it, with studded metallic Christian Louboutins as the finishing touch. He pulled it off so effortlessly, that you’d never be able to tell that it was a last-minute decision,” she divulges. 

It comes as little surprise that the fashion mania has caught up with actors off the camera as well. Those in search of further proof need no look no further than pop sensation, Diljit Dosanjh whose personal wardrobe serves as a handy encyclopedia of luxury fashion. His obsession with all things Gucci has today become industry gospel. Among his many prized couture acquisitions, you’ll find exclusive picks from Dapper Dan’s limited-edition collection for Gucci, including one OTT Hercules necklace that he paired with coordinated Versace separates. The singer’s passion for scoring exclusive pieces before everyone else has them means that you’ll find him scouting the latest drops around the globe. “I love London. Yeh India mein woh cheezein bhejengey jo do mahine pehle khatam ho chuki hai. I like exclusive pieces that no one else has,” he revealed in an interview with Vogue.

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🚨 #SwagAlert Flexin ….

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The grooming that accompanies the elaborate wardrobe looks is no small feat, either. The top stylists in the industry opine that it now takes actors a good one hour in hair and makeup to get ready for a red carpet appearance. Hairdos involve much deliberation, and that perfectly tousled, didn’t-try-too-hard look is the product of a merry concoction of hair wax, shine-enhancing hairspray and moulding clay. Kartik Aaryan’s trademark quiff has today become an intrinsic part of his style signature, and even earned an honorary mention on Koffee with Karan, with host Karan Johar joking that it had taken on a life of its own. The payoff came in the form of internet virality—following in the footsteps of Salman Khan’s trademark haircut in Tere Naam, hairstylists around the country have been reporting an upsurge of interest in the ‘Kartik look’. A dedicated hashtag, #PoseLikeKartikAaryan, even saw young lads from around the country recreating his signature hairstyle. 

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@kartikaaryan #poselikekartikaaryan

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So, the next time you see a Bollywood diva lugging around a heavy lehenga or navigating a crowd in a voluminous train, rest assured that the man on her arm is putting in just as much work in pulling off that seemingly-effortless OOTD. After all, why should girls have all the fun?

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